Apprehending -- understanding and experiencing -- God is knowing him so intimately that a person experiences God as a regular aspect of life, Dr. Jeff Iorg told OBU students Wednesday, Oct. 5. Any Christian believer can "apprehend" God by being filled with the Holy Spirit, Iorg said.
The president of Golden Gate Theological Seminary in Mill Valley, Calif., Iorg spoke during a weekly chapel service at OBU. His message, "The Pursuit of God: Apprehending God," follows OBU's current chapel theme, "The Pursuit of God: The Human Thirst for the Divine," based on the book by Christian author A.W. Tozer.
Iorg said Scripture's admonition to "be filled with the Spirit," as found in Ephesians 5:18, is a unique phrase in the original Greek language for several reasons. He said the word, in its original format, is a present-tense verb, meaning a person should do it now and continue doing it. The word also is plural, meaning it includes everyone, and is imperative, meaning it is a command. He said the word is also a passive construction, meaning in some way, the action must happen to a person. He said this Scripture includes the only "passive imperative" verb in the New Testament.
"Every single one of you, in the present moment, is commanded to make yourself a passive recipient of the filling of the Holy Spirit," Iorg said.
Iorg said the Bible does not contain a formula or set of steps to becoming filled with the Spirit of God. Rather, he likened information in the Bible about being filled with the Spirit to a constellation of stars. Just as a person looks at the night sky, picks out a set of stars, and mentally "connects the dots" to identify a constellation image, so a person can find several biblical references to gain an overall picture of what it means to be filled with the Spirit.
While there is no certain order to most of the biblical references, Iorg said the first aspect of being filled with the Spirit is to be a Christian believer, as noted in Romans 8. Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Iorg said a person cannot have the other aspects of being filled with the Spirit.
Iorg said another aspect of being filled with the Spirit is to surrender total control of one's life to God on a regular basis. He said when he was a young minister, a mentor told him to be filled with the Spirit is "acquiescence of the heart to God." He defined "acquiescence" as willingly and voluntarily releasing oneself to someone else. Iorg noted that no person in the Bible is recorded as praying to be filled with the Spirit. Rather, when someone is filled with the Spirit, it is so evident in the person's life that someone else recognizes and identifies the trait.
The Bible also says a person must avoid quenching the Spirit, Iorg said. He referred to 1 Thessalonians 5:19, which simply reads, "Don't stifle the Spirit" (HCSB). He said a person quenches the Holy Spirit when he or she forsakes prayer and forsakes reading and hearing the Bible.
"On the contrary, when you find yourself on a regular, if not daily, basis reading the Bible devotionally and asking God to speak to you and direct you from that, and you find yourself gathering weekly or even more often to hear preaching and Bible study and instruction from God's Word, that is like an enlivening influence in your life," he said. "It fans in the flame of the Holy Spirit's power, presence and activity."
The Bible also says not to grieve the Holy Spirit, Iorg said, referring to Ephesians 4:30. To "grieve" something is to make it sorrowful in such a way that it loses influence or impact in one's life. In the context of Ephesians 4:30, as related to Christian behavior, he said the Bible says don't steal, don't cheat, don't harbor bitterness, don't be angry and don't speak inappropriately.
"When you knowingly contradict what God wants you to do, your behaviors grieve or limit the Spirit's influence or work in your life," he said. "So listen closely: if you're a gossip, if you harbor bitterness, if you're defrauding someone in a relationship, if you're involved in pornography, if you're involved in some kind of activity that involves cheating or stealing from this school, if you are doing something that you know is wrong … if you know that and you continue to do those things, Ephesians 4:30 says you are grieving the Holy Spirit's influence in your life. You will never know the fullness of him and his work through you until you stop those behaviors."
Iorg said being filled with the Holy Spirit is an act of faith. He read Colossians 2:6, which says, "Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, walk in Him" (HCSB). Iorg said a person experiences God in the very moment he is needed -- the Holy Spirit is not something a person can "save up" for future need.
"Apprehending God requires the faith to take action in moments of life where supernatural intervention is required, and if you only ever attempt that which you can do in your own strength, you don't need anything about this message," Iorg said.